waste to power

Houston startup launches clean energy business to turn compost into hydrogen

Moonshot Compost has announced its plans to create green hydrogen at scale. Photo via Getty Images

You may already know Moonshot Compost, a Houston company devoted to collecting food waste all over Texas. Now, meet Moonshot Hydrogen.

Founders and brothers-in-law Chris Wood and Joe Villa have joined forces with energy industry veteran Rene Ramirez to harness their compost into clean hydrogen power.

Earlier this month, the new branch of the existing company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Purdue Innovates Office of Technology Commercialization. The agreement comes close to a year after Ramirez first began working with Purdue University Northwest professors, Robert Kramer and Libbie Pelter, and Purdue University’s professor, John Patterson. The result is the first operating commercial pilot that biologically turns food waste into hydrogen.

This revelation comes just days after the Biden-Harris administration announced that it had set aside $7 billion to H2Hubs, a collection of seven regional hydrogen power stations, including one in the Houston area.

“We love the timing. There’s just a lot of interest right now,” Wood tells EnergyCapital in a video call with Villa and Ramirez. “It's been fun to watch Rene's long relationship with Purdue come to fruition on behalf of that hydrogen at the same time that the DoD is moving forward with their announcement on the hydrogen hubs.”

Wood and Villa founded Moonshot Compost three years ago.

“The thought was, 'waste is so valuable, and there's so much of it in the trash.' So we wanted to focus on, ‘Let's get our hands on as much food waste as possible,’ and always be focused on doing the best thing with our food waste,” Wood says.

Initially, that meant making compost, which saved the waste from a landfill and produced high-quality, nutrient-rich soil. Customers include both private homes and commercial accounts. Those include heavy hitters like Rice University, Conoco Phillips and Texas Children’s Hospital, as well as beloved restaurants ranging from Bludorn to Tacodeli. And that’s just in Houston. The company now collects from businesses in Austin, Dallas and Waco, too.

That extended footprint will be important to Moonshot Hydrogen.

“Our big dream is ideally that we have one of these hydrogen facilities in almost every city that we can think of. Your city has that ability to charge up or refuel the cars with hydrogen at-location and not have to worry about going 300 miles away,” says Ramirez.

Filling up your car with zero-emission hydrogen made from compost? It could be a reality sooner than you think. According to Wood, Moonshot is already in the preliminary stages of discussions with a facility to pilot just such a program.

“We’ve been thrilled with how receptive people are. There does seem to be a general acknowledgment that this would fit well with Houston’s desire to be the energy transition capital of the world,” he says.

Their patent-protected technology assures that Moonshot is the only company with this novel solution to food waste. Most exciting is the fact that the institutions with which Moonshot already partners could be on the ground floor of being at least partially powered by their own discarded scraps.

“Everyone loves the circularity aspect of it,” says Ramirez. And with a potential launch as soon as next March, it’s one step closer to a reality for the Energy Transition Capital.

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A View From HETI

The combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology. Photo via Getty Images

SLB announced its plans to combine its carbon capture business with Norway company, Aker Carbon Capture.

Upon completion of the transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the second quarter of this year, SLB will own 80 percent of the combined business and ACC will own 20 percent.

According to a SLB news release, the combined technology portfolios will accelerate the introduction of promising early-stage decarbonization technology.

“For CCUS to have the expected impact on supporting global net-zero ambitions, it will need to scale up 100-200 times in less than three decades,” Olivier Le Peuch, CEO of SLB, says in the release. “Crucial to this scale-up is the ability to lower capture costs, which often represent as much as 50-70% of the total spend of a CCUS project.

The International Energy Agency estimates that over one gigaton of CO2 every year year will need to be captured by 2030 — a figure that scales up to over six gigatons by 2050.

"We are excited to create this business with ACC to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technologies that will shift the economics of carbon capture across high-emitting industrial sectors,” Le Peuch continues.

SLB is slated to pay NOK 4.12 billion — around $379.4 million — to own 80 percent of Aker Carbon Capture Holding AS, which owns ACC, per the news release, and SLB may also pay up to NOK 1.36 billion over the next three years, depending on business performance.

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